Special delivery

Vital Signs » Spring 2014
photo of baby orangutan delivered by c-section

Boonshoft grad Bryan Jewell delivers a baby orangutan by C-section

When Bryan Jewell, M.D., was a student at the Boonshoft School of Medicine, he never imagined he would be part of a team that performed a C-section on an orangutan.

But on Jan. 10, 2013, Jewell worked with his business partner, Brad Moore, M.D., to perform a C-section and deliver the baby orangutan with the assistance of a team of animal doctors at Zoo Atlanta. A team of neonatologists from Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta cared for the newborn male infant, Pongo.

“It was probably the coolest experience I have ever had,” said Jewell, a 2008 graduate of the Boonshoft School of Medicine and a graduate of the medical school’s obstetrics and gynecology residency. “The veterinarians don’t normally intervene with primate deliveries at the zoo. It’s best to let nature take its course, but orangutans are extremely endangered. This baby was very important to the gene pool.”

Pongo’s mother, Blaze, a 16-year-old Sumatran orangutan, had given birth a couple of years ago to an infant that died during delivery. Because of her small body and her reproductive history, Zoo Atlanta Animal Management and Veterinary Teams assembled a team of human experts and consultant veterinarians.

Jewell explained that Zoo Atlanta called Moore, his business partner. Jewell and Moore practice obstetrics and gynecology at Haven OB/GYN in Atlanta.

The zoo had worked with Moore before on other animal cases. For Blaze’s case, the zoo’s veterinarians met with Moore and other members of the medical team that included human obstetricians, neonatologists, and veterinary anesthesiologists. They met several times before the birth to determine whether Blaze needed a C-section.

Blaze had been trained to participate in voluntary ultrasounds throughout her pregnancy. But during the C-section, the veterinary anesthesiologists gave her anesthetics.

Jewell remarked that an orangutan C-section was very similar to a human C-section. One main difference was that the patient was not awake. However, he recalled that the orangutan’s anatomy was almost identical to that of a human on the inside.

Since the birth, Jewell has visited Pongo at Zoo Atlanta, which exhibits the nation’s largest zoological orangutan collection. “The baby is developing perfectly,” he said.

The Zoo Atlanta website has followed the development of Pongo since his earliest days with a blog.

Jewell joined Haven OB/GYN in Atlanta in July 2012. He received many academic and humanitarian awards during his medical training at the Boonshoft School of Medicine, including the Arnold P. Gold Foundation’s Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award for a graduating medical student in 2008. During medical school, he participated in the Student-to-Student program, volunteered at Reach Out of Montgomery County and for the Anatomical Gift Program’s Memorial Service, and was a member of the Honor Code Committee.

During medical school, Jewell and Katie Bullinger, whom he married in April 2012, also volunteered to help with Reunion Weekend, babysitting the children of the attendees. “We had so much fun with it while getting to meet many of the past alumni,” Jewell said.

Bullinger, an M.D./Ph.D. student, graduated from the medical school in 2011. She is completing a three-year residency in neurology at Emory University in Atlanta.

Jewell also participated in several international medical mission trips to Jamaica, Cambodia, Bolivia, and Swaziland through the medical school’s Global Health Initiative, which seeks to enhance the education of medical students by facilitating their exposure to medical issues facing people in other countries and medical issues facing immigrants in the United States.

He also was a recipient of the Gold Foundation Humanism and Excellence in Teaching Award in 2010 as an obstetrics and gynecology resident.

A native of Columbus, Ohio, Jewell became interested in becoming a doctor after making frequent trips to the doctor for sports-related injuries. He chose obstetrics and gynecology because it provides a mix of office-based practice, procedures, and surgery. He enjoys the chance to get to know his patients during prenatal care, as well as the continuity of care after the delivery.

Jewell understands that not everyone who goes into medicine feels the same way that he does about obstetrics. “It’s pretty amazing to participate in the delivery of babies, and I love my job more every day,” he said. “I am amazed that every delivery can provide a new, special experience whether it’s human or orangutan.” VS

—Heather Maure

Last edited on 09/28/2016.